WHO I FISHED WITH: On Wednesday, May 31, I fished with returning guests, Dr. Jason Locklin and his two oldest kids, Ava, age 17, and Morgan, age 15.
Jason is a professor at Temple College, and the two of us have not only fished together previously, but also had the opportunity to work together on a study comparing zebra mussel populations in Stillhouse Hollow and Lake Belton.
For sometime now, Jason has wanted to understand what it takes to both capture live shad, and then use them as bait for hybrid striped bass. This season, I chose not to pursue hybrid, both due to low numbers of legal size fish present as our Lake Belton hybrid program is rebuilding, and because I injured my left rotator cuff, thus making throwing a cast net impossible during the early part of the season.
Here is how the fishing went.…
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PHOTO CAPTION: Ava and Morgan Locklin with a few of the white bass they landed by sight-casting to surface feeding white bass with MAL Heavies, and by tightlining live shad off bottom.
PHOTO CAPTION: Ava Locklin with our best fish of the trip. This bluecat fell for a piece of cut live shad we fished amongst a spread of 5 other rods with live gizzards and threadfins.
WHERE WE FISHED: Lake Belton
WHEN WE FISHED: Thursday, 31 May 2023 (AM)
HOW WE FISHED:
Regardless of the whole shoulder thing, I told Jason I would try to figure out a way to at least show him the ropes this season. Unfortunately we had to wait for the kids to be done with school and, as a result, our shad spawn has since ended, so that meant capturing shad the hard way. We met up at 4:45 AM with both a traditional net and a tape net, and proceeded to collect enough bait before sunrise to see us through that portion of our trip dedicated to the pursuit of hybrid.
I covered topics I felt were critical for catching and keeping shad:
- Cast net styles
- Shad tank fundamentals (aeration, filtration, circulation, and insulation)
- Water treatments
- Sorting/transfer bucket use
- Throwing methods
- Deep water throwing vs. shallow water throwing
- Bait net use
- Filter material and cleaning
With a mix of threadfin and gizzard shad now in the bait tank, we got lines in the water just after first light around 6:25 AM.
We hit three areas getting set up and then allowing the baits and splasher to work their magic for about 25 minutes at each location. Although we drew strikes and landed two white bass, neither the strikes, nor the sonar signatures I saw led me to believe we were dealing with hybrid.
The night before this trip, suspecting that the shad and/or the hybrid might be difficult to come by at this point in the season, I asked Jason what he would like to do if we struggled in either regard, and he was open to pursuing other species in other ways.
As we headed to a fourth area to search for hybrid, I spotted some widespread surface activity and was pleased to see that the white bass were feeding on adult threadfin shad. I say “pleased”, because when these fish are feeding on young of the year shad, they are much more difficult to fool, as it is hard to find a lure small enough to imitate these tiny fish.
For about 45 minutes, Morgan, Ava, and Jason sight-cast on one side of the boat or the other, as I maneuvered the boat to keep them with in casting range of the surface feeding fish.
This trio put 68 fish in the boat and made quick work of it. The time was now 9:20 AM, and we had planned to wrap up around 10:20 AM, so we agreed to put in our final hour in pursuit of hybrid once again.
I surveyed a windblown point with sonar, saw activity, and got baits down quickly as everyone was now very familiar with the routine. We fished this area until the bait ran out and wound up with 36 additional fish, including 33 white bass, two blue catfish, and one largemouth bass .
Our grand total for the morning was 106 fish with 68 taken on the MAL Heavy with chartreuse tail sight-cast and/or counted down, and an additional 38 fish taken on live threadfin and gizzard shad using essentially a Carolina rig, suspended vertically off the bottom terminated with a Kahle style hook.
We did not land a single hybrid, but still got to cover the approach to fishing live shad including:
- Shad size
- Shad location
- Shad species
- Hook choice
- Hook positioning
- Hook mono tags
- Tightline setups
- Rod holder positions
- Bite detection
- Bait clicker functions
TALLY: 106 fish caught and released
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OBSERVATIONS: With two consecutive days without spawning shad activity despite ideal conditions, I believe “Shad Spawn 2023” is now complete; and, by the looks of the numbers of juvenile shad now showing up, it looks as if it was quite successful.
Start Time: 4:45A
End Time: 10:20A
Air Temp. @ Trip’s Start: 66F
Elevation: 12.63 feet low, 24 CFS flow, a 0.04′ fall over the past 24 hours
Water Surface Temp: ~78.1F on the surface.
Wind Speed & Direction: SE6-8 until ~9:20, then dropping to SE4-5
Sky Condition: Blue skies with under 10% cloud cover all morning.
Moon Phase: Waxing gibbous moon at 85% illumination.
GT = 50
AREAS FISHED WITH SUCCESS:
Area vic 1556 – 2 whites on live shad
Area vic 1519 – 68 white sight-casting to fish feeding on adult shad with MAL Heavies (all legal)
Area 297 – 38 fish on live shad (2 blue catfish, 1 largemouth bass, 35 white bass (all legal)
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